Americans spent more than $60 billion in 2010 to lose weight, and 84 percent of Americans wish they were in better shape. Why is it then that our obesity rates are on the rise and approximately 90 percent of exercise and diet plans fail? What's keeping us from reaching our fitness goals? In my 28 years of experience in the fitness industry, I've found that busyness and confusion are two major obstacles holding us back from success.
Busyness is an epidemic, and Christian women are not immune. As busy as we are, we are still not finding time to complete our daily to-do lists. Between family, work, volunteering, and household jobs, we can't imagine finding the time to take proper care of our bodies. We often go to bed thinking, "I can't believe another day went by, and I didn't exercise or eat healthy." Guilt and discouragement settle in. This is where Satan wants us—our bodies busy, tired, not functioning optimally, guilt-ridden, and discouraged.
I know how it feels to be overwhelmed. I'm a wife and mother of three teenagers who works, sits on a non-profit board, and struggles to get everything done. Here are six reasons why I make the time to care for my body:
1. Just 30 minutes of exercise yields, on average, 1.5 hours of more productivity per day.
2. When I properly fuel my body, I have more energy and a better attitude.
3. When I exercise I sleep better, I'm sick less, and my mind is sharper.
4. A healthy diet and exercise strengthens my muscles and bones, which helps my posture.
5. Strength exercises increase my metabolism, which helps me maintain a healthy weight.
6. When flying in an airplane, we're told, "Secure your own oxygen mask before helping those around you." If I want to love and serve others well, I have to take care of myself first.
As much as busyness can pull us away from a healthy lifestyle, an even greater reason most fitness plans fail is because we don't ask for God's help. God cares about all parts of our life (1 Peter 5:7), and if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us (1 John 5:14), and will help us. With God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). God's Spirit in us gives us the self-control needed for a successful fitness plan. As Christians, we have the greatest source of inspiration and support through our relationship with God!
Imagine if you started your day with this prayer:
God, please give me the inspiration and self-control to take proper care of my body. I want to have the energy, strength, stamina, and attitude needed to be your servant today. I know you want me to live life to the fullest, so please help me to exercise and eat healthy so I can be the wife, mother, daughter, friend, neighbor, and co-worker that you created me to be.
Still another reason fitness plans fail is because of confusion. What's the best way to exercise? Should I do more cardio or strength training? Is weight lifting good for me? Do I eat carbs or run from them? There is so much information available to us—how do we know what we should do on a daily basis?
Here are my top ten exercise and nutrition principles:
1. Total Body Workouts: Your exercise routine should include cardio, strength, core, balance, and flexibility exercises:
First, cardio. For an exercise to be considered cardiovascular, it must increase your heart and breathing rate for 20 minutes or more. Running, fast walking, biking, swimming, and exercise DVDs are all great options.
Second, strength. All adults should do strength exercises. As you age, you lose muscle, which slows down your metabolism. A slow metabolism makes it easier to gain weight. If you consistently do strength exercises you will increase your metabolism, which will help you maintain a healthy weight.
Third, core. Your core is found in the mid-section of your body. If you properly exercise your core muscles, you will decrease your risk of back injuries.
Fourth, balance. Balance exercises are especially important as you age. Balance exercises will help you to avoid falls, which often result in serious injuries.
Fifth, flexibility. Properly stretching your muscles allows you to keep full range of motion in your joints.
2. Listen to your body: There is a fine balance between exercising too easy and pushing too hard. Everyone is at a different fitness level and should take it at her own pace. When you give your 100 percent, you will reap the most benefits from your exercise program.
3. Buddy up: Most people are more likely to remain faithful to their exercise program if they are doing it with others. Studies show that people who were part of a small group exercise program lost twice as much weight as those who tried it on their own. When we see familiar faces we are no longer just going to exercise, we are entering into a community with common goals.
4. Have fun: Find something you enjoy. If you like doing a certain exercise routine you will be more likely to actually do it. If you love swimming then swim. If you don't like bike riding then don't ride bike. Remember, though, to include cardio, strength, core, balance, and flexibility in your plan.
5. Be thankful: Instead of thinking, "I can't believe I have to go exercise!" think, "I'm thankful I am healthy enough that I get to exercise." Even if you can't do all the exercises listed above, be thankful for what you can do!
6. Eat what God created: God created you. God created food. As often as possible eat what God created in its most natural state. Doesn't it make sense your creator would also create the best fuel for you? Most packaged foods are loaded with ingredients that God didn't create, so stick with fresh foods.
7. Food is fuel, not comfort: Again, God created food to fuel your body. He did not create food to comfort you when you are feeling down. God is your comforter. Too often we turn to food for comfort when only God can bring us the comfort we need.
8. Little changes lead to big results: If you continually make small, healthy changes over time, you will see big results. Exercise 15 minutes a day for a week, then add 5 minutes to your workout routine the next week. Cut back from 3 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee to 2 teaspoons. Add an extra serving of fresh vegetables to your daily menu plan.
9. Drink more water: Many of us are partially dehydrated and don't even know it. Approximately 70 percent of your body is water, and when you don't drink enough it upsets the way your body functions. Often, we think we are hungry when we are actually in need of water. If you drink a cup of water before a meal, you are likely to consume fewer calories in that meal.
10. Wean yourself off sugar and white flour: If you removed refined sugars and white flour from your diet, you would be on your way to a healthier you. Sugar and white flour adds calories to your diet without much nutritional value. Ideally we want to eat foods high in nutritional value and low in calories.
Whether you are ready to jump into an exercise plan or ease into it, here are three "Next Steps" you can take to get going:
Stock your shelves with healthy food so that when you are in a hurry, you have healthy choices to choose from. Don't bring unhealthy, tempting foods into your home. Too often I hear from people who believe they need to bring sugary cereals and cookies into their home for their kids. But if you want your kids to learn healthy eating habits, you need to give them healthy options.
Schedule your workouts. We will never have open hours just looking to be filled with an activity. We need to carve out time, write it down, and commit to it.
Memorize verses that will help you on your journey to better health. For example, when you are looking for comfort from a bowl of ice cream, think instead of Psalm 46:1: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Or when you feel tempted to quit and go back to your unhealthy ways, remember Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Also, when you feel the temptation is too much and you can't resist, meditate on 2 Timothy 1:7: "God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."
Start with these simple steps and you will be on your way to a lifetime of better physical and spiritual health.
Michelle Spadafora is the founder of Faithful Workouts, a non-profit whose mission is to inspire physical and spiritual fitness with its DVDs, books, and TV programs. For more information or to contact Michelle, visit http://www.faithfulworkouts.com.
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